Jim Antle looks how much momentum Giuluiani has picked up against his notionally pro-life Republican opponents John McCain (who actually does have an anti-abortion record) and Mitt Romney (the man of a thousand faces and policy positions). “Giuliani soars despite offering social conservatives few concessions. Perhaps the moral of the story,” Jim concludes, “is this: If you can’t respect life, at least try to respect pro-lifers’ intelligence.”
Jim’s column makes many good points, but I don’t think Giuliani respects most pro-lifers’ intelligence. It seems to me that Giuliani’s success so far illustrates how the conservative movement really works: it doesn’t try to champion principles, it merely anoints candidates who are personally acceptable to the movement’s leaders and excommunicates candidates — like McCain — who are not. Even then, the movement wants to be careful not to lose all access to the halls of power, so if need be, it can warm up to McCain. But Romney has absolutely groveled before the movement’s panjandrums, so he’s their first pick from the top tier, and Giuliani hasn’t gone out of his way to offend them, so he’s the second choice, and increasingly the first choice because he looks like the most viable candidate. McCain is more “conservative” than Giuliani or Romney by any measure, but he hasn’t been deferential to the capos — far from it. Or, to look at it another way, abortion doesn’t affect your average K-street lobbyist and his opinion-monger friends much either way (Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to note that the only blue-collar people who ever came to lobby him were the pro-lifers: they couldn’t afford real lobbyists), but McCain’s campaign-finance shenanigans are another story altogether. That they can’t tolerate.
As far as political principles go, Giuliani is very possibly to the left of Hillary Clinton. He’s been a bigger advocate of gun control — and not just an advocate; remember Giuliani’s suit against gun manufacturers? — and he’s at least pro-abortion as she is; as mayor of New York, he was happy to preside over taxpyer-funded abortions. But, of course, he has more recently said that he would appoint judges like Scalia and Alito to the Supreme Court if he were president, which is meant to hoodwink pro-lifers. So much for respecting their intelligence. He’s been engaging in similar triangulations on guns, too, I should note, but in my experience gunnies are much more ready to desert the GOP or otherwise play hardball if they don’t get what they want.
The utter absence of instutitonal conservative support for the actally conservative candidates in the race — Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Ron Paul — is also telling. They’re no-hopers, but there was a time when conservatives were willing to support non-viable candidates who actually stood for what conservatives claimed to believe in against viable candidates who did not. Admittedly, the circumstances surrounding the candidacies of guys like Rep. John M. Ashbrook (who ran in ’72 against Nixon) aren’t exactly parallel to conditions today. Even so, the bigger change has been not in the political environment but in the movement, which has become institutionalized and complacent. David Kirkpatrick’s recent piece in the NY Times suggests that some of the religious right are contemplating the likes of Huckabee and Brownback, but neither one of them is going to do anything for small-government conservatives.
My own cards are on the table: I’m for Ron Paul, and when he gets eliminated (or if he doesn’t get into the race at all), I’m going to choose one of the kooky third parties to support.